On Sustainability: How do you motivate and maintain quality paralegals after the initial training has been completed?

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On Sustainability: How do you motivate and maintain quality paralegals after the initial training has been completed?

Please consider the following questions to help get this discussion topic started:

  • What ideas have you used to help paralegals who face financial difficulties when carrying out their work (ie. transportation costs, awareness campaigns, court fees, etc.)?
  • Have you found that training paralegals on specific issues (children’s rights, land, women’s rights, etc.) as opposed to general training on different subjects has had an impact on maintaining or motivating paralegals to continue their work?
  • What incentives have been used to motivate or maintain women to work as paralegals (who may also have to balance family, security, financial, and other priorities)?
  • What challenges or barriers have you faced in motivating and maintaining quality paralegals? How did you address these challenges?

Share your thoughts, experiences, questions, challenges and ideas by replying to the comments below.

For help on how to participate in this conversation, please visit these online instructions.

It has been a real challenge

It has been a real challenge for us to motivate and maintain high quality paralegals;

  1. Making a commitment to meet or reimburse expenses incurred in the discharge of their duties has been one way of meeting with them halfway.
  2. One other way of motivating them could be through including them in staff benefits such as staff development training
  3. Recognition of their individual strengths and capitalising on these by allowing them to represent the organisation at high level fora is another way of showing appreciation and rewarding commitment. It also motivates the 'passive' ones to do even better.
  4. Investing in training community structures for the paralegal work support makes it easier for them to discharge their duties, resulting in paralegals proving to be indispensable to their communities. This also motivates them.
In addition to what Chinga

In addition to what Chinga has said, remember Community Paralegals live and work in the community. They know the intricasies and complexity of how the community functions. It is important to appreciate and include  their input in key discussions. If a program is to be successful, the data, knowledge and information collected by community paralegals can go a long way in suporting the program. 

Ensuring sustainability

Yes, true Felicia. Is is also true that there is a deliberate shift towards ensuring sustainability by the donor community and rightly so. A person who has been equipped to navigate the community based assistance terrain will definitely be an asset to that community in the long run. Programmes can easily be replicated in that community as there is someone with the know-how. Besides that, data that community focal people generate is usually credible and their recommendations well-informed.

Hi Felicia!

Hi Felicia!

Can you expand a little more on what discussions are important to have paralegals involved in?

Paralegals should be involved

Paralegals should be involved in discussions on implementation strategies, compilation of challenges and success stories as well as prioritization of issues. This is because Paralegals are more involved in the ground work and one-one interractions with the community. Based on these interactions. Paralegals may have more practical information that makes implemenattion more startegic resulting in higher outcomes of the project. For example, a paralegal may be trained on court procedure only to realize that the community they are dealing with is more interested in negotiating disputes. Thus the project may need to re-strategize their approach.  Therefore  when it comes to prioritization of issues and startegic planning, the paralegal becomes a key informant for the project.

Chinga, thank you for sharing

Chinga, thank you for sharing your ideas! I've noticed that some women who are paralegals have also struggled to be as active as men due to family responsibilities, finances, etc. Have you witnessed any particular ideas that seemed especially helpful for women? Also Chinga, can you expand on the training on community structures? What does this training involve? I like the idea of showing appreciation and rewarding commiment as well. In what ways have paralegals been shown appreciation and been rewarded for their commitment?

Motivating paralegals

For Zimbabwe, women are more willing to offer themselves as paralegals and by the way, some, if not most of the women have been victims of abuse themselves! It is true that they struggle financially; that is why some drop out quietly after training. But those who stay on, really work hard and often go out of their way to help others. That is why for me, the way forward is to share ideas on what we can all do to give holistic support to them. One idea could be coming up with income generating projects or linking them up with partners who are into livelihood support so that they are financially supported as well.

Community leaders and stakeholders are all trained to appreciate the work of each stakeholder and challenges they encounter. There is always room for coming up with a way forward and how the structures can work for protection rather that exposure. For instance, the paralegals appreciate that lack of resources hamper child protection for departments in the police and social services; hence such challenges are brought to the attention of relevant organisations who can facilitate be it placement or court representation. The paralegals then work as a link to other service provides. One component of the training could be service providers mapping for their areas.

One way of showing appreaciation is having a component of support in different budgets eg one could provide for their alloawnces, another for their capacity development, one for production of kits they can use such as t-shirts, travel assistance etc. Another way could be involving the committed ones in staff training and otehr benefits such as attending high profile networking or training meetings on behalf of the organisation or linking them to new partners in their communities so that they become focal people for such organisations.


Models for providing some financial support for paralegals

Above, Chinga writes:

"One way of showing appreaciation is having a component of support in different budgets eg one could provide for their alloawnces, another for their capacity development, one for production of kits they can use such as t-shirts, travel assistance etc. Another way could be involving the committed ones in staff training and otehr benefits such as attending high profile networking or training meetings on behalf of the organisation or linking them to new partners in their communities so that they become focal people for such organisations."

Interesting idea, Chinga! Thanks for sharing. I'm curious if you've seen this model in action and whether it was successful or not. I would imagine that practitioners and commnities are coming up with some very creative ways to support paralegals financially - I wonder what has worked (and what hasn't). Thanks!

- Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder

Access to equipment

Those are very good suggestions, Chinga. Another suggestion is to give paralegals access to equipment or travel that they can use for other purposes. For example, one paralegal organization in Uganda gives their paralegals bicycles so they can better respond to cases or conduct outreach. But so long as the paralegals are attending to their duties, they are also permitted to use the bicycles on their own time, for personal or business reasons. The bicycles can be helpful to run errands or sell goods, for instance. This gives paralegals an added incentive to remain active paralegals.

You can read more about this organization here: http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/voices/justice-wheels

Motivating paralegals

There is no denying that paralegals are needed to boost human rights work, especially considering that most violations happen in communities where mainstream organisations may not have access; hence the need to motivate the paralegals. I would also suggest income generating projects to be a component of budgets for paralegals. Either that or organisations that work with paralegals indicate how they intend to motivate them in order to ensure sustainability such as providing constant allowances throughout a project life or linking to to projects that support communities in livelihood support.


Building closer inter-personal relationships with Paralegals boosts consultations and referrals between staff and Paralegals. Monitoring helps in terms of keeping closer to them as well.

Giving Paralegals opportunities for study tours, enhances exposure and professionalism among community Paralegals. Conducting refresher trainings, further builds their capacity.

Sustaining Paralegal


Sustaining Paralegal

Legal recognition will help paralegal to be sustained. In some jurisdictions ( such as USA) there is provision for licensing and formal course(online course also available) on Paralegal. This recognition will make conducive environment to paralegal working in different projects. Local government may use paralegal in their dispute settlement mechanism.  Beside legal recognition, refresher training, exposer visit, internship with lawyers, publication and network building are other tools for sustainability.

Advocate Shom Luitel

Refresher training

Hi Shom,

Thanks for sharing your feedback! I was curious, how often do you recommend refresher trainings and exposure visits for paralegals? And what do you think is realistic given time/financial constraints for legal aid organizations to provide refresher trainings and exposure visits? 

Utilizing pro bono lawyers to support paralegals

Hi Shom and Christina, I wonder if utilizing pro bono lawyers to help with refresher trainings, internships, and other opportunities is a good model and how it's been used in this way.

New Tactics has collected a number of examples in which pro bono lawyers made a huge impact on access to justice: we have an in-depth case study on a pro bono lawyer program in Brazil (available in English, Russian and Bengali) and a conversation summary on this topic.

- Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder

Monitoring paralegals/Study Tours

Hi Akol,

Can you recommend any best practices for monitoring paralegals? This seems to be something that can sometimes be a challenge so I'd love to hear your recommendations! Also, can you please expand on the paralegal study tours? How are they structured and what are the things the paralegals find most useful for their work during the tours?

Youth as paralegals + Incorporating paralegal input in projects

These ideas and recommendations are all very insightful! Thank you to everyone who has contributed so far. I have a few more follow up questions!

Felicia: You mentioned that "paralegals should be involved in discussions on implementation strategies, compilation of challenges and success stories as well as prioritization of issues. This is because Paralegals are more involved in the ground work and one-one interractions with the community. Based on these interactions. Paralegals may have more practical information that makes implemenattion more startegic resulting in higher outcomes of the project. For example, a paralegal may be trained on court procedure only to realize that the community they are dealing with is more interested in negotiating disputes."

I think that's an important point and I'm wondering if you can provide some insight on common challenges and issues that get overlooked by practitioners creating programs that involve or impact paralegals?

Chinga & Felicia et al: You both seem to have worked on children and youth rights. I've started to see more organizations provide paralegal training to youth and children. In Zimbabwe, there was a program to train youth on how to advocate for their property rights. In Thailand, SPAN developed a network of youth to work as paralegals. In Rwanda, Uyisenga N'Manzi has trained orphans as paralegals. In Indonesia, LBH conducts paralegal training for street children in urban areas. Can you (and others) talk about any experience you may have training youth or children in the law and in becoming paralegals? What were the challenges involved in keeping them motivated to continue serving as a paralegal? Were there any particular incentives provided to motivate them that were unique to their age? 

Akol: Are the paralegals you're training already refugees in the camps or are they Ugandans? If they're both, what differences have you noticed in motivating these paralegals to continue their work? My interview with the Refugee Law Project in Uganda earlier this year revealed that language barriers, intimidation of interpreters from the refugee camps, and unfamiliarity with the language of the court were all challenges the mobile court faced in refugee settlements in Uganda. I'm curious to know how this may impact or keep paralegals motivated in the camps or outside the camps! 

Shom: Earlier you mentioned that you've provided paralegal training to prisoners. In Kenya, Kituo Cha Sheria also trains prisoners to serve as paralegals and finds it to be a self-sustaining way of providing legal aid. Do you know what impact prisoners may have in serving as paralegals after they have been released from prison? Do they still serve as a paralegal in some capacity or help other prisoners? Also, have you noticed any challenges that were unique to training and keeping male and female prisoners motivated to serve as paralegals? Thank you!

Paralegal training should

Paralegal training should include ,

  • Concept of constitute, concept of law of persons, family law, inheritance, property, contact, penal law, civil and criminal procedures, the definition of human right, child and women rights. Moreover, they should learn how to write simple applications and filling formats.

After the paralegal training completed, community paralegals need,

  • Reference paralegal  books
  • Regular followup on thier duties
  • 1 day refresher training  once in a quarter ( Each training should be organized based on the issue or challenges which they faced in due course of thier work)
  • Incentive fee ( to cover thier transportation expence, phone, secreterial costs etc)
  • Experience sharing events
  • Provide aside trainings like, life skill, assertiveness and other trainings like business or entrepreneurship, it will let them to enhace thier personal life at the same time  it would be considered as an award so as encourages them and others to be interactive in thier community.
  • Participate in discussion forums with the partners and likeminded organizations
  •  Effective reporting system should maintain  
  • Budget constraint to pay intensive, to organize trainings, interference of govenment officials, lack of commitment in very few paralegals ( they disappear after the training), overflow of clients to paralegals house are as of the challenges we faced.
Paralegal course, training and refresher

On  Paralegal Training

ChristinaW2 , tigienyew ,and other friend

There are different model to produce paralegal;

  1. Formal course recognized by university or similar statutory body
  2. Training package to paralegal
  3. Internship

For paralegal course there are different levels of courses. It vary from some week to master degree program. I refer some from my book(Future of paralegal service) here;

The Paralegal Institute of Washington, DC's Course

The Paralegal Certificate Program consists of 3 parts: 1. The Classes 2. Independent Study 3.Internship: (Lasts approximately 8 weeks)

Weeks 1&2
You will have classes 2 times per week, for the entire day (i.e., Tuesday and Thursday). All classes will be fewer than 15 students. Classes are intense, and Power Point is used as a guidance tool. This format provides an excellent nurturing environment and limits the students' stress over not understanding a particular subject. You will be given homework assignments and independent study assignments out of the classroom. These assignments will include, among other things, researching and writing.

You will have independent study assignments out of the classroom. These assignments will include, among other things, going to court, researching and writing papers, and participating in a mock interview.

You will be assigned to a law firm for an internship. During your studies at PIW you will create a list of the types of law firms in which you might wish to work. You will be placed in that type of firm, or one close to it, for a three-week internship. This internship may be full-time or part-time, depending on your availability. http://www.paralegal-institute.com/schedule.html, wesite visited on 24 July 2007

Today, there is an estimate of 600 paralegal education programs in the United States. The most common types of programs are:

  • Associate Degree Programs. These programs are offered by two-year community colleges, some four-year colleges and universities, and some business schools.
  • Bachelor Degree Programs. Paralegal education is also offered by four-year colleges and universities which have a paralegal studies major, minor, or concentration within a major. These programs are usually about 120 - 130 semester units, including 30-60 semester units in paralegal and related courses. Upon successful completion of the program, the student is awarded a baccalaureate degree.
  • Certificate Programs. Various kinds of educational institutions offer paralegal certificate programs ranging from 18-60 semester units. Longer programs usually include both general education and paralegal courses, similar to associate degree programs. Certificate programs are usually designed for students who already hold an associate or baccalaureate degree.
  • Master's Degree Programs. A few colleges and universities that offer undergraduate paralegal degree programs are now offering an advanced degree in paralegal studies. Other universities offer advanced degree programs and law-related areas such as legal administration and legal studies.

The American Bar Association has a program of approving legal assistant training programs which meet their guidelines. Seeking ABA approval is voluntary on the part of the institution. http://www.nala.org/whatis.htm#Background   


For training it is depending upon the trainee education level, in which sector they have been working and legal system where they are. I agree with my friend there should be some basis knowledge on concept of law, introduction of law, constitution, justice system, how to work with lawyer, mediation, civil and criminal procedures and related laws where paralegal have been working.

If we are talking about paralegal who have been working in justice sector more training is necessary. We  always need to be clearer on role of paralegal who have been working in community and who have been working in technical sectors.

Refresher training to paralegal 

Its depend on initial training and need of paralegal. Yes ChristinaW2 there is financial constraint. However refresher training is required, we can build it in legal aid project.  In only exceptional case paralegal prisoners work as paralegal after their release. We have good experience of paralegal in the field of migration. Migrant workers they refer case to us who are trained as paralegal.


Paralegal training model

Thanks Shom for sharing. But for our purposes, how can we come up with a training model that suits the caliber of the paralegals we have? Bearing in mind that they are community people who may not qualify for the formal education system?

The Kenya School of Law

The Kenya School of Law (issues the Bar exam for Kenyan lawyers) offers a diploma in paralegal studies. Though the course takes two years to be completed, the diploma definatey motivates more paralegals by legitimising the training they receive. Workshsops and trainings carried out by non-profits may be limiting in that not all non-profits issue a valid certificate or diploma thus demotivating paraleglas. By  awarding a diploma, not only does the school recognise the key role played by paralegals but also encourages them to horne their legal skills. 

Modules on Paralegal

Dear all

We have developed two modules on Paralegal;

  1. For migrant workers
  2. For prisoners

People who do not have educational background, paralegal may have limited scope. On this background we may develop modules.

Modules on paralegals for migrant workers & prisoners

Thanks, Shom! Are these modules available online? If so, could you share the links so we can access them? Thanks!

- Kristin Antin, New Tactics Online Community Builder

Hi Kantin

Hi Kantin

We do not have these model online. We have developed them in Nepali language.

Shom Luitel

paralegal training modules

Hi Shom and Kantin


 Can the modules which are in Nepali be translated into other languages? They would really be helpful

Investing on skills and capacity building trainings

The primary objective of setting up paralegals is to help improve access to justice for marginalized communities / individual. It provides a avenue for individuals and communities who may be  apprehensive  or unaware of accessing the justice system to seek redress for their grievances . It is therefore critical that skills and capacity building of paralegals focus not just on the procedural legal norms and processes but in also building the more critical skills that relate to creating an inclusive and safe environment for people to voice their grievances. We find that paralegals as group become more sustainable when the community sees their role as that of key opinion maker alongside of being a legal advisor/supporter. Investing on building specific skills that enable them to better understand and respond to -  social power dynamic and access and control of resources by different groups within the community; gender dimension in the community, caste/ Class dynamics allows for a more enhanced role and greater trust within the community. Thus they can fit into the role of effective community opinion makers  irrespective of the specific nature of a program . They are therefore not limited to being associated with only those programs that have specific space for paralegals. They have greater capacity to move across different development programs and initiatives.      

Useful Skills and Training for Paralegals

Hi Nandita,

Thanks for your post! That's an interesting observation you've noted - that paralegals are more sustainable when the community sees their role as key opinion makers in the community in addition to being a legal advisor. I also really like the training you recommend for paralegals on: social power dynamics and access and control of resources by different groups within the community; gender dimension in the community, and caste/ Class dynamics. 

I'm providing a link to a report done by the Justice and Security Research Programme (JSRP) that assessed The Asia Foundation's mediation program in Nepal for anyone interested.  The evaluation discusses mediation's impact on social harmony, inter-group relationships and also discusses how ethnic majorities and minorities engage in mediation differently. Here's a summary of the report. 


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Motivating Prisoners

Hi CMac,

I saw your earlier post about the Paralegal Advisory Service in Malawi. Can you talk a little about whether prisoners who have been trained as paralegals continue to serve as paralegals after they have been released from prison? What suggestions do you have to motivate them to continue serving in this capacity? Thank you!

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Motivating Prisoners

Hi Christina,

One prisoner, who served 8 years in pre-trial detention, was aquitted and released in October last year.  Since then, we have assisted him with completing the paralegal training course and he is now working with the paralegal advisory service, speaking in prisons and on community projects about the importance of understanding your basic legal rights.  For this prisoner in particular, having something to work towards once he was out of prison was his motivation.  He assisted the paralegals when he was a prisoner, through identifying the most vulnerable prisoners, helping the paralegals to collect data on new inmates and generally making prisoners aware of the services provided by the paralegals.  He definitely saw this as 'work experience' for when he was released and able to train as a parelegal.

I think motivating prisoners to serve as paralegals after being released, has to come from the paralegals and the relationships they build with prisoners and the community.  In Malawi, paralegals are very respected individuals.  There are no suspicions of corruption as with the police or government employees, because there only agenda is to educate and improve access to justice.  In addition, lawyers are rarely seen at the prison as there are only around 20 legal aid lawyers in the whole of the country, so the paralegals are the only organisation allowed into the prisons to assist with legal matters.  This is another reason why prisoners have so much respect for the paralegals and why many want to work with them on release.  It would be ideal if there were a funded programme for prisoners to work as paralegals after release because it also serves as rehabilitation and keeps people from reoffending because they have a job which can support their family. 


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Hi Charlotte,

Hi Charlotte,

Thank you for sharing that! That was really interesting to learn. Do you think there may be any special considerations that could additionally help motivate women or young people to also serve as paralegals after they're released? Thank you!

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ARDD-Legal Aid organization,

ARDD-Legal Aid organization, through its Women's Access to Justice (WAJ) project has raised legal rights awareness among over 3000 women and men in Jordan since 2011.

As part of WAJ project, 60 law students from two Jordanian universities were trained to become community paralegals. The purpose of this training was to build their capacities just in order for them to act as social safety nets in their respective communities.

The training was focused on the Jordanian personal status law, particularly marriage law. The fruit of this training was soon reaped as 11 of these student started conducting awareness raising sessions to the people of their communities. They also started providing consultancies to the vulnerable groups in their communities.

Concerning the safety of our paralegals, they indeed dealt with sensitive issues such as gender-based violence and abuses. However the beneficiaries gave them a friendly welcome as they were eager to know more about their rights and find out tools to face everyone's own injustice.

Please let us know if you need more details on any aspect of the above mentioned aspects.


Motivating and maintaining quality paralegals after training


In maintaining the paralegals momentum, paralegals should seek out opportunities to put their learnt skills into  action. This can be through  requesting for time in local churches to sensitize  congregants about  legal rights .In many instances one will find  people who have been aggrieved by some form of injustice and hence give  appropriate advice. They can also seek spaces to reach out  to vulnerable  groups in the community such as prisoners, women , children  and sensitize them on rights.


Other areas that paralegals can  attach themselves to make their skills relevant include children homes where they can carry out awareness on child rights and child protection, in remand home  and prisons where they can  help enhance the self esteem of  detainees  through interaction or for those whose cases are on-going , they can  empower them with  self  representation skills , and  follow up on cases to ensure justice  prevails. They can also work with vulnerable youths such as  young people living and working on the streets, out of school youth  on awareness on rights and conduct referrals ,this is because there is an increasingly criminalization of youth  due to vulnerability to radicalization , extremism and crime.


Calling  back trained paralegals and giving them roles to undertake  is a plus in motivating paralegals. Legal Resources Foundation Trust trained me as a  paralegal  , time and again they called me to participate in their activities .This made me feel motivated .


Conducting reviews  , where paralegals get an opportunity to share what they are doing after the training  facilitates a yardstick into whether the skills gained have been relevant or not in the paralegals day-to-day  life. The  trained paralegals should also be encouraged to share reports with the  training organization on what they are doing , challenges they are facing  and how they have been able to overcome these challenges.


Assisting paralegals especially in   capacity building on  resource mobilization and fundraising skills will go a long way in sustaining paralegals at the community level. This is because resources are needed to carry out various activities  related to being a paralegal. From transport to go to court, to  airtime to contact relatives of clients , to photocopying of statements, all these need money which the paralegal may not  be able to  provide as an individual and may need support of other stakeholders and funders to chip in.


Continuous training for paralegals is important , not only on paralegalism but on other human rights issues. This is in cognizance with the fact that   society is dynamic and issues emerge which  needs skills to handle. For instance   a hermaphrodite in a prison  , how to  you handle them without compromising on their right to privacy  or their right to accessing justice , the emerging dilemma being  for instance in a country like Kenya where prisons are either for females or males , it becomes  an  issue when there is a hermaphrodite inmate.


Creating opportunities for the paralegals to  participate in networks on legal rights issues  provides the paralegal with  space to look at issues from different perspectives as well as keep them abreast with information on what is happening  in the legal sphere. Various networks that handle  rights and legal issues exist in Kenya , these include Kenya Alliance for Advancement of Children, Juvenile Justice Network, Probation and Aftercare  committee among others.